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Why are the Royals Doing their Damage in the Middle Innings?

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For the first half of the game, bats are afraid. But in the mid-to-late innings, the Royals are a different team at the plate. What gives?

USA TODAY Sports

Superhero movies are very much en vogue this summer, and the Royals are putting on a superhero performance of their own. For the first five innings of every game, they are mild-mannerered Bruce Banner, bunting their way to little offense. But from the sixth inning on, the Royals want to SMASH! HOS MAD! FRENCHY MAD! SAL WANT TO BREAK THINGS!

In each of the last two games, the Royals have put up big runs in the sixth inning to overcome a lead en route to victory. On Tuesday, it was a four-run sixth that led to a Rays meltdown as the Royals won 8-2. On Wednesday night, the Royals put up five runs in the sixth frame to overcome a lead and win 9-8.The Royals have been a late-hitting team all year. While they have the third worst OPS in the league in innings 1-3, they lead the Major Leagues in OPS from the seventh inning on. Here is a breakdown of their offense by inning:

Inning

Runs

Home Runs

AVG

OBA

SLG

1

11

2

.240

.284

.365

2

5

1

.216

.255

.320

3

12

2

.269

.320

.398

4

10

0

.234

.263

.266

5

19

4

.301

.348

.505

6

16

1

.305

.342

.419

7

16

1

.302

.389

.438

8

12

3

.286

.346

.462

9

6

1

.262

.333

.354

Extra

6

1

.455

.625

.909

Despite their sixth inning heroics this week, its actually the fifth that has been most productive for the Royals. Why are the Royals so dead offensively to begin the game, only to turn it on mid-game?

Several theories abound. Let's put on our tin foil hats and explore some possibilities:

  • It takes a third time through the lineup for the Royals to figure out opposing pitchers. The Royals are a young team, and may not be all that familiar with the pitchers they are facing. By the time they face them the third time through the lineup, they are familiar enough to know what to expect. However, this does not explain the damage they have done against fresh relievers coming into the game.
  • The Royals are wearing down starting pitchers and getting into the pen earlier. Not likely, since they have seen the third fewest pitches per plate appearance in the league.
  • Greenies. Which are a performing-enhancing drug that is okay, because players used them in the old days.
  • It takes five innings for nad-taps to work. And only if you're expecting them.
  • Its the Illimunati. Or the Stonecutters. They did make Steve Guttenburg a star.
  • Its just random dumb luck. Sometimes weird stuff happens. We've seen this before. Remember the 2000 Royals? THE BLUE WAVE! In April, the Royals won four games in a row in their last at bat, and had six walk-off wins for the entire month. That was a sure sign the team was for real! Until they won just 77 games.

So does the sixth inning magic mean anything? Probably not a whole lot yet. But hey, I'd rather win those games than lose them.